photo credit: jodi lai / autoguide.com
as led lighting technology becomes more widespread, more automakers are adopting the technology in recent years as costs continue to drop. that means there’s a wide assortment of options when it comes time to finding a replacement led headlight bulb for your vehicle, from brands you likely never knew existed. if you previously owned a vehicle with halogen or high intensity discharge (hid) headlights, you’re probably familiar with brands such as philips and sylvania when it comes to replacement bulbs; but that won’t be the case with led bulbs.
You're reading: Best LED Headlight Bulbs, September 2021 – AutoGuide.com
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the brightness of an led bulb is measured in lumens, so that’s one important factor you will want to pay attention to when picking a replacement. you will also want to compare their advertised operating life if you drive often at night. led headlight bulbs tend to last much longer than halogen and hid bulbs, which also make them very cost effective and convenient for the vehicle owner.
most importantly, many led headlight bulbs can be used to replace halogen headlights if you’re looking for a brighter, longer-lasting light. many of the manufacturers include plug-and-play kits with their products, so you don’t need to do any modifications to your vehicle. brightness can depend both on the specific bulbs available for your car; and the different model lines that manufacturers offer, but range from 6,000 lm (lumens) up to 12,000 lm. however, 6,000 lm is brighter than almost any halogen headlights.
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the ideal balance of price, performance, and longevity, cougar motor’s led headlight bulbs offer as much as 12,000 lumens per pair (depending on the specific bulbs for your car) which is 200 percent brighter than stock halogen headlights. they run at a cool white 6000k temperature and offer a great beam pattern without any dark spots or foggy light.
cougar motor opts to use an aluminum housing with a 10,000 rpm turbocool fan to ensure the led headlight bulbs can operate for over 50,000 hours. the company says its bulbs are plug-and-play and are can bus-ready with most vehicles. they are also ip67 waterproof and each bulb comes with a three-year warranty and lifetime support. each bulb is rated at 30 watts, is available in the most common h11 style, and uses cree led chips. installation is easy thanks to the bulbs being can bus-ready, working with most vehicles without issues. it is recommended to contact the manufacturer to verify they will be compatible with your vehicle.
there are brighter options available than cougar motor’s led bulbs, so if you often drive at night or on dimly lit roads, you may want something brighter. but if you’re looking for an all-around performer that is competitively priced, these bulbs should be at the top of your list. cougar motor is also the only company on this list that offers a three-year warranty on its products.
the most premium option on this list, xenonpro led headlight kits are the priciest option to make the cut, but they’re well worth the extra outlay for the lifetime warranty that covers the bulbs, drivers, accessories – we’re talking everything. if a part fails, xenonpro will replace it for just the cost of postage.
not that we figure you’ll be making much use of that warranty; xenonpro’s led headlight kits are well-built with solid aluminum bulb casings that soak up plenty of waste heat, and equipped with a quiet, built-in micro-fan for active cooling. they’re made to withstand the harsh demands of automotive use, being 100% water, shock, dust, and rumble-proof, and rated for 45,000 hours of reliable use.
as an upgrade over standard halogen bulbs, xenonpro’s leds boast up to 300% more brightness, putting out a max of 9,000 lumens per pair, with advanced anti-glare technology to avoid blinding other drivers. they install easily in less than half-an-hour. four distinct colors are available – 3000k (yellow), 6000k (bright white), 8000k (blue), and 12000l (purple) – and there’s even a canus-ready option to make sure the bulbs can communicate properly with your vehicle’s computer system.
*this is a sponsored placement.
beamtech’s replacement led bulbs are more affordable than cougar motor’s products, but they won’t last as long. that’s because they are a bit brighter at 8000 lumens per pair with a 6500k color temperature. their advertised lifespan, however, is over 30,000 hours, so if longevity is a concern you may want to look elsewhere.
headlights: everything you need to know
what makes beamtech’s bulbs different from many of its competitors is the lack of a fan, making them quieter than other products. in lieu of a fan, they feature passive cooling with an aluminum body for improved heat dissipation. beamtech also says the bulbs are close to the same length as a halogen lamp filament, resulting in a beam pattern that you would expect from a halogen bulb. these bulbs are ip65 waterproof.
priced as a mid-range option, beamtech’s bulbs are an interesting option since they don’t have a cooling fan. for most drivers, the noise from the fan isn’t very noticeable, but sensitive ears could find it annoying. you are however, trading longevity since these bulbs are rated at 20,000 fewer hours than some of their competitors.
if a bulb’s lifespan isn’t a concern, then beamtech’s bulbs are ideal for you since they offer above average brightness with quiet operation.
another popular option, these led headlight bulbs boast a bright 10000 lumens per pair at a 6500k cool white temperature. fahren’s option delivers a focused beam pattern that provides a wider and farther lighting range, while being three times brighter than a standard halogen bulb. sporting an aluminum body with a unique hollow-carved heatsink design, the company claims these bulbs will last up to 50,000 hours. contributing to their durability are 12,000 rpm turbo cooling fans and these bulbs are ip68 waterproof.
designed to be closely similar in size to factory halogen headlight bulbs, these led upgrades should fit nicely into your headlight housing without any modification. to ensure you get the best beam pattern, these bulbs use a 360-degree adjustable locker ring. they’ll work with about 98 percent of vehicles without any error, although some models will require an additional can bus decoder.
a more expensive option compared to the other two we’ve already mentioned on the list comes from hikari. these leds offer 9600 lumens per pair at a 6000k temperature and can be used on headlights, fog lights, and daytime running lights. hikari offers a two-year warranty with their products, which is less than cougar motor but more than others.
each bulb is equipped with 9,000 rpm turbocool fans and are plug-and-play like most other led bulbs on the market. hikari advertises that its bulbs last around 50,000 hours thanks to a newly designed dual driver system that is used to safely power the led bulb. the hikari cree xhp50 bulbs are also ip68 waterproof.
overall, the hikari cree xhp50 is a great option if you’re willing to spend a bit more for a brighter headlight with long-lasting life. these are highly recommended for drivers who commute often at night and travel on dimly lit roads. since it is one of the brightest set of led bulbs available, they’ll offer more visibility than other competitors.
lastly, hikari cree xhp50 led bulbs are approved for use by the u.s. department of transport (dot), but it’s still recommended to check with state laws to make sure they’re legal to use on your specific vehicle.
a nice mid-range option comes from auxbeam, priced competitively while offering 6000 lumens per pair. the color temperature is 6000k, just like the hikari cree xhp50 and cougar motor replacement bulbs. the led bulbs feature aircraft-grade luxury gold aluminum and cree led chips, along with built-in can bus to avoid error codes. they are also ip68 waterproof and dustproof, for those that plan on going off-roading.
each bulb has a built-in turbo fan and since it uses aerospace aluminum alloy, the heatsink stays 30 percent cooler than a standard bulb. auxbeam bulbs come with a one-year warranty, which isn’t as competitive as other manufacturers.
auxbeam’s bulbs are the least bright of all the bulbs on the list, which may be preferred by some drivers. they are rated at 30 watts per bulb and comes with a plug-and-play built-in control driver to avoid error codes. they are available in a variety of bulb fitments so there’s likely an application that fits your vehicle.
if you’re purchasing auxbeam f-16 led bulbs, make sure you are getting a product that is sold and shipped by auxbeam. the company says it is the only authorized dealer of its products, so keep your eye out for counterfeits.
the most affordable product on our list comes from u.s.-based lasfit. the company’s most popular led bulbs offer 7600 lumens as a pair at a cool 6000k color temperature, while rated at 30 watts per bulb. like other led bulbs, they are plug-and-play with a built-in ballast to save space. each bulb also features a 9,000 rpm hydroid pressure fan with airflux dual cooling technology to dissipate heat. there are brighter products from lasfit, some offering as much as 15200 lumens, but they’re more expensive.
outfitted with lasfit’s new cob flip chip technology, the bulbs provide a perfect beam pattern without any dark spots and foggy light. the flip chips also claim to exhibit less thermal resistance and reduce power dissipation better so they run cooler.
the company includes a no hassle, 45-day refund policy and one-year replacement warranty, which isn’t as competitive as some manufacturers, but lasfit’s products are more affordable. these bulbs are ideal for owners that don’t often drive at night and are looking for a cost-effective way to either upgrade their halogen bulbs or replace their led bulbs.
since lasfit is based in the u.s, the company offers pickup for customers in ontario, california, and even has installation services.
the vast majority of vehicles leave dealership lots these days with one of three headlight bulbs: halogen, hid, or led. halogen bulbs are the oldest of the three and are still very common. they’re extremely affordable and typically have a life of around 800 hours on average. when compared to hid or led bulbs however, halogen bulbs are the worst performing of the three. they also require more energy than led bulbs and are more prone to heat. at the end of the day however, halogen bulbs offer enough lighting for safe driving, but upgrading to leds will make a noticeable difference to your driving experience.
led headlight bulbs are becoming more commonly used by luxury automakers such as audi, bmw, and mercedes-benz. you’ve also likely heard of led bulbs for home use, which deliver equal or better lighting with lower power consumption and longer life. led headlight bulbs are similar, offering better performance and longevity at a greater cost. fortunately they’ve become so popular and common these days that they don’t cost significantly more than halogen bulbs.
some will argue that led headlight bulbs aren’t as bright as hids, but they are definitely brighter than halogen bulbs. they also don’t produce as much glare as hid headlights, and they don’t need a small period of time to charge up. just as important, led bulbs don’t use a filament that burns out or breaks, which allows them to last much longer than halogen bulbs. they may also be more resistant to vibration than bulbs with a conventional filament, which can be helpful if you drive on rough roads.
the short answer to this question is yes. the aftermarket and the products in this list are designed to be retrofit kits for vehicles with halogen headlights. what’s important to know however is that some led headlight kits may not be legal in your state. so make sure to check local state laws before upgrading to led headlights.
there is actually no definitive answer to this question, but we recommend replacing both your headlight bulbs at the same time, even if only one goes out. that’s because swapping out just one headlight bulb could result in a difference in brightness between the two. also, depending on your vehicle, changing out your headlight bulbs could be a cumbersome task—you’re better off doing it once and saving yourself time down the road. and if your bulbs are the same age, they’re likely to die at the same time.
if you’re trying to be frugal or more practical—if it’s not broken, why fix it—then make sure you keep a spare bulb handy for when the other one does eventually burn out.
while some high-end cars might require removing the entire headlamp assembly, one of the most common methods is a simple twist lock. while you shouldn’t touch halogen bulbs with your bare hands (the oils from your fingers will make hotspots on the quartz glass), it should be fine to handle both hid and led headlights. but we always wear nitrile gloves just in case. plus, it’s greasy in there.
if you have a twist-lock style headlamp cluster, like most japanese and korean cars, the back of it will look something like it does in this 2014 mazda.
the hardest part is usually detaching the socket. the base of most led headlights has the same clip as this halogen bulb, which you have to press in. firmly hold the base of the bulb with one hand while you press down on the clip, then just pull it straight off. it might help to press down on it with something hard, like the flat of a small screwdriver, and you may have to wiggle it gently freee.
- the arrow on the retaining lock ring has an arrow for the direction to tighten. you probably have to push in slightly against a tension spring, then turn in the opposite direction.
- pressed-in tabs help lock the bulb in place. don’t twist too hard.
- the base of the bulb has tabs that match the notches in the ring. when they meet up, just pull it gently out.
and here’s our old 9005 halogen headlamp bulb, and you can see right into the headlamp assembly. we’ll be putting in a compatible h11 led bulb, which will really improve the performance of our car headlights.
photo credit: david traver adolphus / autoguide.com
august 31, 2021: updated several models which offer greater brightness. added “tips” section.
october 23, 2020: updated with a promoted product recommendation.
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